Once again Haiti has taken it on the chin.
In early-October, the nation still trying to recover from the 7.0 earthquake that devastated much of the island nation in 2010, was hit by Hurricane Matthew.
The storm brought sustained wins of 140 miles an hour; some weather stations reported gusts of 200 mph. Winds much weaker than that could wreak havoc on many of the tin-and-plywood shacks that hundreds of thousands of people called home following the earthquake.
It’s as if Haiti has a target on its metaphorical back. The list of disasters to strike the hemisphere’s poorest nation reads like some kind of apocalyptic plague. Consider:
- In 1935, a hurricane killed 2,000. Nobody knows for sure if that figure is accurate because the nation’s census has, over the years, been taken very haphazardly.
- In 1946, an earthquake and tsunami killed thousands, but no one is sure exactly how many.
- Hurricane Hazel in 1954 again killed thousands with an exact total of the dead left to one’s best guess.
- On Oct. 3, 1963, Hurricane Flora left at least 5,000 dead.
- Then there was Hurricane Cleo in 1964; Hurricane Allen in 1980; Hurricane Gordon in 1994; and on and on.
In 2004, four years before yet another hurricane, Gustov, struck the nation, 1,232 were killed and another 1,443 left missing after May rains led to heavy flooding. And as if that weren’t enough, the following September Hurricane Jeanne killed nearly 3,000; its flooding left another 1,800 dead and 300,000 Haitians were left homeless.
No one knows how many were killed in the 2010 earthquake — relief agencies have placed the numbers at anywhere from 46,000 to 306,000. The homeless were as numerous as spring dandelions; they were everywhere.
Then came Matthew.
Gerry Delaquis, a parishioner at St. Bernadette Church, was there when the winds and rains and storm surge struck. He said in a telephone interview last week that the school in Lhomond that local parishes, including the Cathedral of the Assumption and St. Edward Church had helped support, stood largely unscathed through the storm.
“It was well built of concrete,” he said. “Wooden buildings didn’t have much of a chance.”
Such was the case with another school partially supported by St. Bernadette parishioners. The school at Bonbon was, he said, reduced to rubble. “That school cannot be used; the books are all damaged or destroyed,” he said. “That school has to start again from zero.”
Much was the same at a school with ties to Louisville in Jeremie, Haiti. “That part of the nation, the southwest, was the worst hit,” Delaquis said. “Jeremie looks like a couple of heavy bombs landed right on top of the town. The church is gone, the priests have no where to live….it is very, very sad.”
Dr. Carolyn Woo, director and CEO of Catholic Relief Services, has seen the situation in Haiti first hand.
“I just returned from Haiti and the damage is worse than we ever imagined it would be,” she said in a press release earlier this month.” She noted that Matthew destroyed villages “along the Tiburon Peninsula in coastal southwest Haiti.”
“Torrential downpours and 145 miles an hour winds felled trees, swept away people and animals and destroyed up to 90 percent of homes in some areas,” she said. “All told, 2.1 million people are affected and 1.4 million need immediate help.”
Lots of us have heard this story time and time again, but that doesn’t make it any less significant, and it doesn’t make the need any less important. We may have given to Haitian relief efforts before — perhaps even several times — but we need to do so again.
It’s not the fault of the Haitian people that mother nature seems to have little regard for their welfare. They can’t steer away the storms or stop the earth from shaking. Cholera is a major threat, too.
And so they need our help again, now, right before the holiday season and the charitable giving that usually comes with it. Regardless of the nation’s dramatic history, we know that if help doesn’t arrive, people in Haiti will die.
Let’s do our best to keep this latest tragedy from growing larger. Let’s help Haiti once again.
Record Editor Emeritus